A Quick Guide to Learning to Read with Phonics

A Quick Guide to Learning to Read with Phonics

Your kids probably learn to read with phonics. Do you know how?

Phonics is a system of teaching kids to read by linking letters to sounds. Phonics are widely used for teaching kids to read, but the exact model varies from country to country. England uses systematic synthetic phonics, and this model is also aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Systematic synthetic phonics is not used universally across non-CCSS states, so check with your child’s school to avoid confusion. Analytics phonics is another method schools use. This method gets kids to read whole words first and then break them into sounds later.

There is some jargon attached to using the phonics method. These are the  main terms you should know:
Phoneme: the smallest unit of sound. The /D/ in dog or the /OO/ in book.
Grapheme: the letter or letters that represent a phoneme.
Digraph: two letters that represent a phoneme, such as /SH/ in ship
Synthetic: here, it means joining rather than fake. When kids identify the phonemes in a word, they join or synthesise them to pronounce the word.


What is systematic synthetic phonics?

Usually shortened to synthetic phonics, this method teaches pupils to read by sounding out and blending the letters in a word. Much research supports its effectiveness, so many countries have adopted it.

Kids learn the phonemes for each digraph. These are often split into levels or phases, with the easiest first. These phases are helpful in providing kids with texts containing only the phonemes they have learned or are learning.

Here’s a very simple explanation of how kids use synthetic phonics

  • Segment: spit the word into phonemes by looking at the digraphs and using the associated phoneme
  • Blend: merge the sounds to form the word.

Some tips for using synthetic phonics to teach kids to read are:

  • It is hugely important to get the sounds right. Many of us inadvertently embellish the sounds when we isolate them. For example, we say the ‘s’ sound in snake as ‘suh’, but this is not the sound in the word. It should be sounded as ‘sss’.
  • Start with simple sounds and words. Consonant-vowel-consonant words are among the first that kids learn. An example of a CVC word is DOG. It has three phonemes /D/, /O/ and /G/.
  • Help kids with irregular words. English is not a consistent language, and many of the most common words, such as ‘what’ or ‘water’, do not follow the patterns kids expect from phonics. Kids must memorise these exceptions.
  • Use texts containing only the sounds and words the child has learned to help them practice their skills and build confidence. Apps and phonics books are helpful for these.
  • Don’t let your kids forget their phonics strategies as they advance. It remains helpful to decode complex words they encounter for the first time.

It is never too early to start kids on their literacy learning journey. Invest in a phonics app for your kids to play independently.

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